History 2805 -- History of Islamic
From the Six-Day War to the
It took the Arab world a long time to recover from the Six-Day War of 1967.
The Israeli victory encouraged loose talk
as a superpower, and a noticeable pro-Israeli slant in the West.
There were two other effects within the Arab countries.
Nasir was forced to become more accomodating with more conservative regimes he had scorned
in the past.
The PLO become a high profile force.
The Palestinians had once again lost big in the Six Day War, and they were
angry. The colossal defeat of the governments
that supposedly had been looking out for their interests gained them more
independence, and some sympathetic support (funding, arms) from Arab
This is the period when "Palestinian = terrorist" became a popular
equation in Western consciousness. Airline hijacking and such
tactics as the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics of 1972 were
really the only tactics they could use to insist
on their continued existence as a wronged people.
was nevertheless able to resist any settlement with the Arabs. The
famous UN Security Council Resolution 242 (Nov. 1967) outlined a strategy of
"land for peace;" Israeli withdrawal to the cease-fire lines of
1949-67 in exchange for all countries recognizing Israel's right to exist.
This was unacceptable to both Israel
and many Arabs with interest in Palestine.
having staved off annihilation, was unwilling to give up the strategic
advantage just won. Settlements were introduced into the new
In 1969, Nasir with Soviet help (perhaps Soviet
pilots in Egyptian planes?) began harassing Israel
along the Suez Canal (now the effective
Israeli border). But by August of 1970, Israel was
getting the best of the conflict and there was a new ceasefire, with negotiations
In September, the PLO acted to derail the talks by hijacking four airliners,
which were all blown up on the ground (after the passengers were released); one
was destroyed in Egypt, three in Amman, Jordan. King Hussein of Jordan was so
angry at this use of his territory that he attacked the PLO.
Syria intervened to
support the PLO in Jordan; Jordan got the US
to ask Israel for air
support, which Israel would not do without a US
guarantee to act against Egypt
and the USSR if they supported
Close to world war? The USSR did not risk it, since it had
no interest in Arab victory.
Hussein beat the Syrians, expelled the PLO, which had to establish itself in
At the end of September, 1970, Nasir died,
resulting in passionate demonstrations of grief. There has been no
pan-Arab leader of his influence since. Anwar
Sadat, who succeeded him, had a hard time even maintaining himself in Egypt.
The post-Nasir world looked very grim with
could not be worn down, and Arab governments were unwilling to risk a real war
-- to the point of fighting the PLO instead, if it pulled them toward disaster.
There was only one way ahead: to convince the US to force Israel to make peace.
The effort to do so led Sadat to start another war.
In 1973, Sadat arranged with Syria
to attack Israel
on October 6, the beginning of the Yom Kippur holy period in Judaism and the
anniversary of the Battle of Badr. At
first, there was success, and Israel
was forced to appeal to the US
for weapons to counteract Soviet weapons on the other side.
threatened to use nuclear weapons. The US
provided the weapons, and Israel
was able to counterattack Egypt
and cross the Suez Canal. Both the
US and the USSR wanted to
stop the war, but they were not able to do so before they started mobilizing
against each other. Again, world war was near. A new
ceasefire was put in place in late October.
The US was pushed in this
direction by the first Arab boycott of oil to the US
and the Netherlands
(the site of the spot market in oil). Although US oil supplies
were hardly affected, pretty soon the whole world economy was transformed.
Arab governments talked about their (very real) anger about US support for Israel, but there was another
motivation, too: a struggle between the obscure OPEC organization to get
better prices from US, British and Dutch oil companies. The long
oil glut was over, and OPEC (which included US
allies Iran and Venezuela) had
the advantage. The unifying cause was a desire for more money.
In the next few years there was a vast reallocation of wealth on a global
Did Arabs benefit from this?
Most of the money quickly left the Arab oil producing countries in search of
productive investment, or for guns. Western banks, investment
houses, suppliers, and arms merchants got much of it.
Nor did a united Arab front against Israel emerge. Oil
states put pressure on Third World countries without oil to cut ties with Israel, but the important ally was the US, and Arab countries did not unify against the
The gains of the October War was illusory, and
eventually Anwar Sadat had to try another desperate
tactic -- a flying visit to Jerusalem in
November of 1977, and the Camp David accords
"Camp David" was peace on Israel's terms:
- A peace treaty with
(and therefore recognition by) the foremost Arab country
- Israeli withdrawal from the
Sinai in stages (to 1982)
- Israeli access to the Canal
and the Gulf
- A promise (not fulfilled for
years, and then very stingily) of Palestinian autonomy on the West Bank
to be negotiated over the next five years. (Negotiations didn’t really
start until the 1990s and have failed to settle the most important issues.)
This was far from being an Arab-Israeli
(but not the USA!) was
ostracized by the other Arab governments, and the peace had to be supported by
vast US subsidies to both Egypt and Israel. The US interest in this very expensive policy was
basically to keep the USSR
out of the Middle East.
(In class we will discuss why the US has played such a key role in
the Arab world, and why the Arab countries, despite all the talk of Arab
nationalism and unity, have proved unable to work together.)
Israel gained a certain immunity from attack by the
bordering Arab states; without Egypt no such attack could possibly
gained the ability to pursue settlement in the West Bank and Gaza
without interference of its near neighbors (only Syria,
angry about the
occupation of the Golan
Heights, maintained a consistent hostility but could do nothing
However, this Israeli victory (and it was) did not produce
lasting security, because non-state forces continued to resist Israeli
occupation and settlement. Israel in the
1980s continued on a war footing.
which had become divided by civil war in 1976 between pro- and anti-Palestinian
factions (to greatly oversimplify) became a safe haven
for PLO forces to Israel’s
north. To secure the border, Israel invaded twice, in
1978 and 1982, to push back anti-Israeli
forces. The 1982 invasion led to a
prolonged, expensive and debilitating occupation of south Lebanon, which
lasted until 2000.
In the West Bank and Gaza, frustrating with living in limbo eventually
produced the intifada (“shaking off” or “uprising”);
at first it was angry teenagers throwing stones at the visible presence of
Israeli occupation, young Israeli
soldiers, in 1987. Soon enough the
resistance activities became more violent and normality broke down in the
Thus within 10 years of Camp David Israel was beginning to
understand that that agreement, however favorable it had initially seemed, was
an insufficient foundation for Israel’s future.
Copyright (C) 1999, 2007 Steven Muhlberger.